Ban follows fatal attack in Cairo suburb
CAIRO, Egypt––A comprehensive new Egyptian dog law is under fire mostly from outside the country for including strict penalties for dog attacks and a prohibition on the import or possession of dangerous or otherwise problematic foreign breeds.
Prohibited are pit bulls, Rottweilers, German shepherds, huskies, Caucasian shepherds, bullmastiffs, Dobermans, Malamutes, Akitas, American bullies, Alpine mastiffs, Dogo Argentinos, Cane Corsos, and Tosa Inus.
All of these are breeds of elevated risk, to varying degree. Most are climatically unsuited to Egypt as well, where the average daily temperature rarely drops below 50 degrees Fahrenheit and is above 90 degrees Fahrenehit from March through November.
Private possession of wild predators banned too
Also prohibited under the law are private possession of cheetahs, tigers, lions, jaguars, wildcats [of any species], gorillas, chimpanzees, monkeys, crocodiles, turtles, venomous snakes, wolves, foxes, bears including pandas, hippopotamuses, wild buffalos, and wild donkeys.
Many of these species are native to Egypt and may roam freely in the wild.
Among dogs permitted are all recognized native Egyptian dog breeds, including basenjis, salukis, pharoah hounds, Ibizan hounds, and baladis, a catch-all term for street dogs.
Egyptian baladis tend to be small, brown or tan, sometimes with patches of white, and are rarely inclined to bark persistently or bite anyone.
Great Danes are both allowed and disallowed
Ten foreign dog breeds may be licensed without inspection, including cocker spaniels, Labrador retrievers, poodles, Malinois, Pomeranians, Jack Russell terriers, white German shepherds, Maltese, and Samoyeds.
Unexplained is why white German shepherds and Malinois are permitted but not German shepherds of conventional color and markings.
Also unexplained is that Great Danes appear on both the list of prohibited and permitted dogs.
Dogs of breeds not listed are subject to government veterinary inspection before licensing, to ensure that banned dogs and other breeds considered unsuitable to Egypt are not brought in under variant names.
Banker killed by TV chef’s pit bull
The new Egyptian dog law has been anticipated since February 27, 2023, when Mohamed Moheb Al-Mawi, 42, a banker in Sheikh Zayed City, a Cairo suburb, fell into a coma and died after being attacked by neighbor Amira Shanab’s pit bull.
Shanab is a popular television celebrity chef. Her husband has been referred for criminal prosecution for allegedly causing Al-Mawi’s death through negligence.
“According to local media reports,” said Middle East Monitor, published by the Muslim Brotherhood, “the dog had previously attacked another neighbor in the same residential complex.
The most recent statistics available from the Egyptian Health & Population Ministry show that 6,241 Egyptians received hospital care for dog bites, including treatment for possible exposure to rabies, in just the first four months of 2019.
Pressure building since attacks in 2016, 2019
Pressure for passage of the new law had been building since 2016 when six dogs mauled a female child in Shobramant, another Cairo suburb. Calls for a ban on foreign dog breeds gained momentum when two dogs were caught on video mauling a nine-year-old boy in New Cairo, yet another suburb, and then only days later a police officer was savaged by two pit bulls, also in New Cairo.
Egyptian Society for Mercy to Animals founder Mona Khalil objected to Sarah Elhosary, a writer for the government newspaper Ahram, that the breed bans included in the new national dog law are “like passing a law prohibiting people from driving cars because of a car accident.
“Despite the involvement of animal welfare associations in some of the law’s drafting sessions,” Khalil added, “we were surprised when it was announced with retroactive enforcement. The owners of animals deemed dangerous by the law will be obliged to transfer them to the General Authority for Veterinary Services, and this was not discussed with the animal advocacy organizations.
“Taken aback by list of banned breeds”
“We were also taken aback by the list of banned breeds,” Khalil said, “which includes dogs commonly allowed in other countries,” although pit bulls are at least technically prohibited in most of Europe, Asia, and Africa.
“What’s more surprising,” Khalil pointed out, “is that a specific color of a dog breed [German shepherd] is prohibited, while ownership of dogs of the same breed but of a different color is permitted.
“There are clear discrepancies in the list,” Khalil continued. “For instance, one dog breed [Great Dane] is prohibited, but is also listed as permitted. This indicates a lack of understanding,” Khalil contended, “on the part of the drafters of the law regarding dog breeds, their actual traits, and their level of aggression.”
Oldest dog & cat humane society has long recommended against the now banned breeds
But Khalil’s objections, amplified by international media, appear to contradict the longtime recommendations of SPARE, the Society for Protection of Animal Rights in Egypt, located in Shobramant, Sakarra.
Founded in 2001 by Amina Tharwat Abaza and Raouf Mishriky, SPARE is the oldest Egyptian dog and cat charity still functioning.
The Cairo SPCA, founded in 1895, still has stables and an outpatient clinic for working animals, but has been inactive since 1997, while the Brooke Hospital for Animals, operating in Cairo since 1934, handles only horses and donkeys.
“Many Egyptians buy pit bulls,” warns the SPARE web site, “with disregard to the fact that they are banned in the only dog park in the country. These dogs are usually housebound (a very large percentage of Egyptians live in apartments), and therefore do not have access to proper exercise or socialization. Rottweilers, Doberman and most recently Caucasian Ovcharkas, are also [poor choices of dog] due to their aggressive natures. German Shepherds have always been a breed much loved by Egyptians due to their ‘police dog’ reputations,” SPARE mentions, but often become neglected because they are not appropriate to the Egyptian environment.
40 days & 40 nights
Mira Gamal, identified by Sarah Elhosary as “a dog shelter owner in Cairo,” told Elhosary that she believes “The potentially exorbitant costs associated with registering a dog will increase the likelihood of individuals abandoning their dogs, leaving them to roam the streets.”
The new Egyptian dog law, however, should not have taken anyone by surprise.
Ahram, the most widely circulating Egyptian daily newspaper and web site, on May 4, 2023 published a detailed description of the new dog law two days after it was approved by the Egyptian House of Representatives, 40 days before it took effect on June 14, 2023.
“The 29-article bill, stipulating strict criteria for ownership and sale, is meant to prevent animal cruelty and protect citizens,” wrote Walaa Gebba, who is also a BBC News regional correspondent.
“Promoting a safer & more compassionate community”
“The bill covers concerns such as dangerous animal possession, unauthorized dog ownership, and breeding dangerous pets, promoting a safer and more compassionate community and guaranteeing these animals are kept and sold responsibly,” explained Walaa Gebba.
“The law stipulates dog owners must take the necessary steps to ensure the animal does not escape; offer appropriate housing for the animal; license the dog; and provide health treatment for it, keeping documents that detail the dog’s medical history,” Walaa Gebba detailed.
“The General Authority for Veterinary Services should be notified if the dog is infected [by rabies], dies, or escapes; if a person is injured or killed as a result of a dog attack; if the owner wishes to transfer or abandon the dog; or if he is unable to accommodate it.
“The law obliges dog owners — who must be aged 18 and above — to keep dogs muzzled and firmly leashed when taken outside,” Walaa Gebba said.
Dog owners may be fined 10,000 Egyptian pounds, equivalent to $325 U.S., for bringing dogs into public places without a license,” Walaa Gebba continued.
“If found guilty of possessing, handling, or breeding an unlicensed dog, the dog owner could face imprisonment for a minimum of three months, a fine of at least EGP 30,000 [$1,000 U.S.], or both.
“For assaulting people with a hazardous animal or dog, the penalty is imprisonment for not less than six months and a fine not less than EGP 50,000 [$1,500], or one of these two penalties.
“If the infringement was deliberate or premeditated, the penalty is imprisonment for not less than one year and a fine of not less than EGP 100,000 [$3,000], or one of these two penalties.
Attacks can bring hard labor or life in prison
“If the attack causes illness or incapacity for more than 20 days, the penalty is nine months in jail and a fine of not less than EGP 75,000, or one of these two penalties.”
The potential penalities escalate, Walaa Gebba explained, with the severity of the harm done by the dog. Allowing a dog to inflict a permanent disability on someone can bring three to seven years in prison, including five years at hard labor.
Causing a human death by accident can bring 10 years in prison; using a dog to commit murder can bring 15 to 20 years at hard labor, or life imprisonment.
“Dog owners are required to license their pets at the General Authority for Veterinary Services within six months,” Walaa Gebba finished.
“The license costs between EGP 1,000 [$32.50] and EGP 15,000 [$500],” depending on the type and perceived risk posed by the dog.
“Dangerous breeds are prohibited from entering public spaces”
“Known formally as the Regulation of Ownership of Dangerous Animals & Dogs Law,” elaborated Shereif Barakat of Egyptian Streets, the leading Egyptian news website published in English, “the new law classifies dangerous animals as ‘those which cause harm or damage to humans or animals,’ as written in Chapter 1, Article 1 of the legislation.
“The owner of an animal deemed dangerous by the General Authority of Veterinary Services, the authoritative body on the new law, must surrender the pet for inspection within one month of the law’s enactment. Upon inspection, the authority determines whether the breed is suitable for registration or is too dangerous.
“Under certain conditions,” Barakat said, “the general authority could permit pet owners to register and maintain breeds from the prohibited list. Chapter 2, Article 3 of the law highlights that dangerous breeds are prohibited from entering public spaces.”
“400,000 cases of dog bite”
Explained Ahmed El-Sigini, chair of the local administration committee of the House of Representatives, who drafted the new dog law, “The bill is meant to address the possession and handling of dangerous animals, the ownership of dogs without a license, and the spread of stray dogs threatening people’s lives.
“The bill comes,” El-Sigini told Daily News Egypt, “in response to hundreds of complaints Parliament received from citizens, asking us to take legislative action against stray dogs who threaten people’s lives on the street and to regulate the possession of dangerous animals who attack citizens, particularly children and the elderly.”
Added agriculture committee chair Hisham El-Hossary, “Official figures show there were 400,000 cases of dog bite last year, which led the state treasury to bear the massive financial cost of importing rabies shots to treat injured citizens.
“Implementation could take year & a half”
“This law is meant to stem the phenomenon of persons possessing or walking with wild animals freely in public places like gardens, parks, residential areas and hotels without taking the necessary precautions to protect people,” El-Hossary said.
General Authority of Veterinary Services director Ehab Saber told Arab News, a pan-Arabian news website headquartered in London, that “Implementation could take up to a year and a half, during which time dog owners can rectify their situations and obtain the necessary licenses.”
But Arab News also mentioned that, “Some Egyptians in positions of power have already reacted with zeal to the ban, with managers of residential complexes ordering owners of prohibited breeds to get rid of their dogs.”